Read Hermit's Peak Online

Authors: Michael McGarrity

Hermit's Peak

BOOK: Hermit's Peak

Mexican Hat
Dead or Alive
Hard Country,
the bestselling Kevin Kerney novels from Michael McGarrity are classics in the American Southwest's crime fiction tradition. . . .

Praise for Michael McGarrity and his “exceptionally intelligent, humane mystery series”
(Publishers Weekly)

“Each new Michael McGarrity novel about New Mexico lawman Kevin Kerney is better than the last.”

Los Angeles Times

“McGarrity deals in the quotidian reality of a cop's life, and he does so with remarkable verisimilitude.”


“McGarrity has a cunning mind for crime fiction.”

The New York Times Book Review

“First rate.”

Arizona Daily Star

“McGarrity may be the best writer of the genre working today.”

Tulsa World

“The series remains one of crime fiction's most ­readable.”

Kirkus Reviews

“McGarrity's familiarity with human failings and emotions . . . helps him bring his characters to life. . . . There are no stereotypes, just living, breathing people.”

The Denver Post

Go back to where it all began for lawman Kevin Kerney . . . Enjoy the raw realism and heart-pounding action of this quartet of ­novels that first introduced the unforgettable New Mexico detective!

Back in print at last, one of the highly acclaimed early novels in the Kevin Kerney series . . .

Praise for


“Plenty of action, a sympathetic central character, and a little healthy sex make this an enjoyable, readable mystery.”

The Dallas Morning News

“Another winner.”

Taos News

“Brisk pacing, meticulous plotting, and characters to root for. . . . A series that was never less than professional and is now approaching distinguished.”

Kirkus Reviews

“An excellent police procedural with scrupulous attention to detail.”

Globe & Mail


“A perfect blend of riveting action and richly evoked characters.”

—Linda Fairstein


The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A masterpiece of plot, setting, and character . . . [to] be savored.”


“A must read. . . . A compelling blend of old-fashioned, street-smart detection, tenacity, and modern motivation.”

The Dallas Morning News


“Outstanding. . . . McGarrity ingeniously orchestrates . . . a complex, action-filled plot.”

Publishers Weekly


Chicago Tribune

“McGarrity knows what he's writing about—and how to write it.”

Tony Hillerman

An Anthony Award Nominee


“McGarrity knows his territory . . . his characters are as memorable as the environment they live in.”

Albuquerque Journal

“Few mysteries are as fresh and powerful as this rich Southwestern tale. . . . McGarrity delivers atmosphere, action, romance, and prime satisfaction.”

Publishers Weekly

“Packs excitement, color, and character in its pages. . . .”

The Denver Post

“Mystery fans shouldn't miss it. . . . moves like lightning.”

—Tony Hillerman

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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

About Michael Mcgarrity

Dedicated to the memory of


United States Army Air Force,

Eighth Army,

World War II



Thanks go to Angela Gill of Kent, England; Terry Sullivan, director of Land Protection, the Nature Conservancy of New Mexico; Darrel G. Hart, director, Recruitment and Training Division, New Mexico Department of Public Safety; and Patricia A. Baca, partner, Daymon & Associates, CPA's, all of whom helped me get my facts straight.

Any screwups are mine alone.


Maj. Sara Brannon arrived at her office fifteen minutes before she was due to report to Gen. Henry Powhatan Clarke. She sorted through her mail, looking for a letter from Kevin Kerney. There was no envelope with either a New Mexico postmark or his familiar scrawl. Disappointed, Sara set the mail aside, took off her fatigue jacket, and glanced at her wristwatch. It was evening in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and she wondered if Kerney was home from work. With the demands of his job as deputy chief of the New Mexico State Police and his gloomy description of the small guest house he was renting, she doubted he spent much time at home. Both Kerney and she were working long, hard hours in pressure-cooker jobs, and camping out in less than inviting quarters.

Late March in South Korea had brought a series of cloudy, dreary days that made spring seem a long way off. Sara yearned for sunshine and home. But with several months remaining on her tour of duty, it was too soon to start daydreaming.

Her office desk faced a full wall of situation maps documenting all recent North Korean DMZ incursions, infiltrations, and violations. As commander of allied G-2 ground reconnaissance and intelligence units, she was directly responsible for monitoring North Korean troop activity along and inside the DMZ. Her squads had to catch whatever the electronic eyes in the sky missed. Sara routinely accompanied the patrols to assess their effectiveness and efficiency.

For the last forty-six years, battle-ready armies had faced each other across a swath of rugged mountains two-and-a-half miles wide and a hundred-and-fifty miles long that cut across the Korean peninsula, keeping the zone free of any human activity except intermittent skirmishes. Once blasted by artillery, bombed and strafed by aircraft, burned and left barren by infantry, the DMZ now flourished as a nature preserve. The reforested mountains, abundant grasses, and wildflowers, the deer, brown bears, and wildcats that grazed and fed peacefully in the valleys and the high country, reminded Sara of her family's Montana sheep ranch and Kerney's still unrealized hope to return to his ranching roots in New Mexico.

When G-2 had received advance notice of the itinerary for the secretary of state's South Korean visit, Sara concentrated her attention on Panmunjom, the neutral village within the DMZ fifty miles due north from Seoul. The secretary had scheduled a quick visit to the site, to be accompanied by high-ranking military and civilian dignitaries.

During a series of late-night sweeps at Panmunjom,
Sara had spotted the tracks and scat of a Korean wildcat. On a subsequent patrol, under a full moon, she caught sight of the animal, an adult male about the size of an American cougar. Through night-vision binoculars, she watched it lope quickly across the cleared area around the village and move on.

Two nights before the secretary of state's arrival, she saw the animal again on the same traverse. Halfway across the clearing the big cat froze, turned to catch a downwind breeze coming from the village, reversed direction, and quickly retreated.

Whatever startled the wildcat needed looking into. Sara got permission to go into the DMZ for a closer look. Her team jumped off late at night from a staging area in a canyon south of Panmunjom, and belly-crawled to the open perimeter surrounding the village, where they waited for the full moon to set.

Under cover of darkness, Sara spread her people out and put the area under close surveillance. For hours nothing moved, but Sara sensed that the North Koreans were up to something. She ordered a ground sweep into the village. As Sara and her team crawled across the clearing, automatic weapon fire opened up from three hidden positions, taking out her point man.

Sara popped flares into the night sky, called for cover fire from the infantry platoon stationed behind the wire, and kept the team moving forward as rounds whined overhead. The green dots from the AK-47 tracers, the red dots from the M-60 machine-gun tracers, and the searing white of the flares cast carnival colors across the night sky.

Using rocket grenade launchers, the team took out two of the positions and stormed the third, capturing a wounded North Korean soldier.

As Sara pulled back with the wounded North Korean and two shot-up team members, the enemy answered with return fire from behind the village. Another soldier took a round in the exchange, but Sara got everyone out. They hit the safety of the fence and a bank of ten-thousand-watt spotlights lit up the village. All shooting stopped.

Sara stayed with her wounded until the medics got them stabilized and ready to airlift. Then she reported to the command bunker. A South Korean infantry officer was on the telephone in a terse exchange with his opposite number on the other side of the DMZ. The officer hung up and reported to the American colonel at his side an immediate stand-down by the North Koreans.

At dawn, Sara took a platoon of infantry back into the DMZ to inspect the area. They found three tunnels with shielded ceilings to block any traces of body heat that could be detected by satellites. Dug from the North Korean boundary, the tunnels ran to within five hundred feet of the viewing platform that looked over the DMZ, and were positioned to rake the viewing platform in a cross fire. Commando sniper rifles with silencers and telescopic sights were retrieved from the tunnels. Then each tunnel was sealed and destroyed with explosives.

As a result of the thwarted assassination plans, the secretary of state's DMZ visit was cancelled.

Weeks later, Sara was still waiting to hear what the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency had to say about
the incident. The Beltway spy shops had taken full control of the investigation and dropped a heavy security blanket over the episode. Since the firefight, most of Sara's time had been spent either undergoing intense questioning by teams of Intelligence analysts or debriefing Pentagon and National Security Council officials.

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